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posted: 10/21/2012 6:17 PM

Duo brings Civil War music to life in Glen Ellyn

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  • History Singers Kathryn and John Atwood perform songs from the Civil War at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society History Center Sunday. It's one of several special Civil War programs the historical society has planned for the war's 150th anniversary.

       History Singers Kathryn and John Atwood perform songs from the Civil War at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society History Center Sunday. It's one of several special Civil War programs the historical society has planned for the war's 150th anniversary.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • History Singers Kathryn and John Atwood perform songs from the Civil War at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society History Center Sunday.

       History Singers Kathryn and John Atwood perform songs from the Civil War at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society History Center Sunday.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • History Singers Kathryn and John Atwood perform songs from the Civil War at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society History Center Sunday.

       History Singers Kathryn and John Atwood perform songs from the Civil War at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society History Center Sunday.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

There were roughly 10,000 songs written and published during the Civil War era. Some were rousing calls to battle. Some were somber reflections on the war's human toll. Some were comical digs taken at the opposing side.

So explained Kathryn and John Atwood, musicians and history buffs from Forest Park, who brought some of those tunes to life during a special performance Sunday sponsored by the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.

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The program was part of the historical society's ongoing celebration of the Civil War's 150th anniversary.

"I've always loved music and the idea of learning history through song," said Jan Shupert-Arick, the society's executive director. "And there's so much interest in the Civil War now, so we thought this would be a nice event."

The performance took place at the Glen Ellyn History Center on Main Street. The Atwoods gave the history and context of the era's songs before performing them.

"Americans were always a singing people," John Atwood said. "The (music) publishing industry as we know it really came into its own during this period."

The Atwoods performed different types of songs from the era. They started with "The First Gun is Fired," a song John Atwood said was composed shortly before the outbreak of fighting at Fort Sumter, which started the war. They performed "Bonnie Blue Flag," a rallying anthem for the Confederate side, which used to carry a flag that featured a lone white star on a blue background. They also performed "Steal Away," one of the spirituals composed and sung originally by black slaves.

They concluded their program with a performance of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," with most of the audience singing along.

The Atwoods perform throughout the region as the History Singers.

The Glen Ellyn Historical Society's Civil War-related activities will continue into 2013. The next event will be a program about letters of the Civil War Jan. 20. Go to glenellynhistory.org for more information.

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